The number of hate crimes in Quebec City has increased for a fourth consecutive year.
According to Statistics Canada, 76 hate crimes were reported in 2021, nine more than the previous year.
Quebec City is one of the Canadian cities where this type of crime is most prevalent, surpassing Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal.
The hate crime rate per 100,000 population was 9.2 last year in the provincial capital, which is higher than the Canadian average of 8.8.
Louis Audet Gosselin, the scientific and strategic director of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence says people shouldn't read too much into those statistics.
"It gives us a general idea of the situation in terms of what is declared by the police," Gosselin told Radio-Canada. "That doesn't necessarily give us the real picture, insofar as we know that the majority of hate crimes are not reported."
This increase is also noticeable at the national level.
In 2018, 1,817 hate crimes were reported in the country, compared to 3,360 last year.
"It's clear that there's been a general increase in social tension in the past two years and that hate crimes follow the news," Gosselin said. "What people in different cultural, religious and sexual diversity communities are telling us is that there is a greater climate of uncertainty."
A new structure at the SPVQ
Since the mosque attack in January 2017, the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ) has put in place a process to make patrol officers more aware of detecting possible hate crimes.
"As soon as they have the slightest doubt, they will flag it," said a spokesperson for the SPVQ. "When a hate crime is reported, it is quickly assigned to an investigator and becomes a priority."
The SPVQ says it is very proactive in terms of publicizing hate crimes and invites citizens to call police if they believe such a crime has been committed.
The COVID effect and social media
In Canada, hate crime can be hate speech, such as an insult, or physical violence while using a word that expresses hatred, says Denise Helly, professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique.
She says the increase in serious crimes in Canada in 2021 points to an increase in "social violence."
"With algorithms on social media pushing more towards radical, often right-wing views, we have a proliferation of hate speech on the web," she said.
Helly added she believes that until governments legislate social media platforms for spreading hateful and misogynistic content, hate crimes will continue to rise.